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Communication is Essential in Preventing Wrong-Site Surgery

Nov 12, 2015 Brown Moore Medical Malpractice

No one would knowingly choose a surgical team whose members cannot distinguish between left and right — or even recognize the difference between one patient and another. Yet medical providers operate on the wrong body part or the wrong patient with alarming frequency. Wrong-site surgeries are known as surgical never-events because they should never happen. Our Charlotte medical malpractice lawyers see far too many patients who sustain great harm, largely because of the inability of various medical teams to communicate effectively.

The Discovery of Surgical Never-Events Should Have Resolved the Problem

Back in December 2012, Johns Hopkins released an alarming study about the frequency of surgical never events in the U.S. These included a number of errors, including wrong-site surgery. Two and a half years later, a Fox News report indicated that many fully-preventable errors still exist, including wrong-site surgeries.

The root cause of such errors points to poor communication. For example:

  • Documentation may fail to mention which portion of the body requires surgery.
  • Some team members might fail to use a standardized preoperative process to verify documents and accurately mark surgical sites.
  • Some teams do not involve the patient’s family to accurately identify the patient.
  • Some team members who notice issues during procedures fail to speak up.

After knowing about these issues for approximately three years, it remains unclear why medical providers continue to make these errors. In the best-case scenarios, patients need to go through painful procedures a second time to address their issues. In more severe cases, patients can needlessly lose healthy organs with a devastating effect on the rest of their lives.

Patients Need to Proactively Protect Their Own Safety

In emergency situations, patients often have no choice but to trust medical providers to take due caution during treatment. Whenever possible, however, patients or their families need to have frank discussions with their medical providers before they undergo potentially-serious procedures. It is not unreasonable to verify the affected site and ask about the protective measures they use to ensure that the correct site receives treatment. Just as important, family members should ask for the opportunity to identify their loved ones before they are wheeled into the operating room.

Regardless of whether wrong-site surgery causes major injuries or even relatively minor ones, they represent clear cases of medical malpractice. At the very least, they create inconvenience, more time away from work, and extra risks when patients need to go through a second procedure. To pursue the compensation you deserve and help protect against additional injury, call us at 800-948-0577 or use our convenient online contact form.